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Welsh butchers ready to take on the world after intensive training

The Craft Butchery Team Wales (from left) Tom Jones, Liam Lewis, Matthew Edwards, Peter Rushforth, Ben Roberts, Dan Raftery and Craig Holly.

A team of talented Welsh butchers is primed and ready to represent Wales with great pride after an intensive period of training in preparation for the World Butchers’ Challenge in the United States on September 2 and 3.

That’s the opinion of Craft Butchery Team Wales co-ordinator Chris Jones, who will be one of the judges at the global competition, which will be contested by 13 countries in Sacramento, California.

The Welsh team, who fly out to Sacramento on August 30, will be making their debut at the World Butchers’ Challenge where Celtic cousins Ireland will be defending their title.

The team’s final training session was held on Sunday, when Mr Jones, head of Cambrian Training Company’s food and drink business unit, put his judge’s hat on to cast a strict eye over the butchers’ work.

“The team has improved so much in the last six weeks in terms of being organised, methodical and fast,” he said. “They have trained every Sunday for the past six weeks and their hard work has paid off. They have really stepped it up and are excited and ready to go.

“I cannot praise the butchers enough for their commitment and dedication. The team spirit is great and we are one of the few countries in the competition that has had the same members since the cycle began.

“We are also very lucky to have fantastic support from our sponsors and others associated with the team.”

Formed in 2020 and managed by retired butcher and experienced competition judge Steve Vaughan from Penyffordd, near Wrexham, the Craft Butchery Team Wales is a division of the Culinary Association of Wales.

Team comprises Peter Rushforth from Innovative Food Ingredients, Lytham St Annes, who is captain, Craig Holly, from Chris Hayman Butchers, Maesycymer, Hengoed, Tom Jones from Jones Brothers, Wrexham, Matthew Edwards, a lecturer at Coleg Cambria, Connah’s Quay, Dan Raftery from Meat Masters Butchers, Newtown, Liam Lewis from Hawarden Farm Shop and Ben Roberts from M. E. Evans Butchers, Overton-on-Dee.

Team sponsors are the Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry, Atlantic Service Company from Newport, Kepak from Merthyr Tydfil, AIMS (Association of Independent Meat Suppliers), Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Innovative Food Ingredients, M. E. Evans Butchers, Dick Knives and Tiny Rebel.

Huw James from Atlantic Service Company will be  accompanying the Welsh butchers to the competition.

With butchers from across the globe battling it out to become world champions, the competition is often referred to as the ‘Olympics of Meat’.

The competition is conducted over three hours and 15 minutes, with competing teams given a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens which they must then transform into a themed display of value-added products.

Teams are allowed to provide their own seasonings, spices, marinades and garnish to finish products that are designed to inspire and push the boundaries, yet which are also cookable and would sell.

Independent judges score each team based on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.

Ben Roberts will represent Wales in the World Champion Butcher Apprentice competition on September 2. Modelled on the World Butchers’ Challenge, butcher apprentices have just two hours and 15 minutes to break down a range of primal cuts into a display of pre-determined products and their own creations.

“It’s an entirely new experience for our butchers because this will be their first team competition and they don’t come any bigger than the World Butchers’ Challenge,” added Mr Jones.

“They are all proud to be representing Wales and we shall be doing our utmost to fly the Welsh flag with style. It’s a far bigger competition this year than it has been in the past, so Wales will not be the only country making its debut.”